Correspondence on peer-review mentoring

Two letters about Nature‘s peer-review mentoring scheme, published in the journal’s Correspondence pages earlier this month (Nature 448, 129 and 130; 2007):

Your Editorial ‘Mentors of tomorrow’ (Nature 447, 754; 2007) highlights a need to encourage ethical, honest and fair peer review by young scientists. Although I applaud the ethos of the argument presented, graduate students such as myself often suffer from anonymity in their field of research, even though our work is often at the cutting edge. A lack of publications can render a student invisible to editors and may result in missed opportunities to offer their services as referees.

I suggest that journals consider introducing a ‘PhD student peer-review pool’ to which students and their supervisors can sign up. Such a database, including a student’s name, area of research expertise and current supervisors, would provide editors with a ready supply of willing referees. Editors could try new referees in the knowledge that they will be supported during the review process by their supervisor, and could provide feedback to the student about the quality of the report.

Refereeing has often been described as a thankless task, but although it does require considerable effort, it also provides invaluable experience in critical interpretation of science. Having recently completed my first review, I believe that it has made me far more objective about my own writing and can only benefit the production of my thesis. I therefore look forward to receiving my next invitation to review.

Angelo P. Pernetta, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wareham, UK

Thank you for your excellent Feature, ‘Nature’s guide for mentors’ (Nature 447, 791–797; 2007). It’s definitely one of the best things I’ve read in Nature in the 25 years I’ve been reading the journal. To better help students make informed choices about choosing a mentor, it would be enormously useful if public granting agencies such as the US National Institutes of Health would publicly post the ‘trainees’ lists that are included in training grants for every faculty member in a given PhD training programme. If this were done, students considering applying to those labs would know their actual chance of being mentored successfully

Ben Barres, Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, USA

See here for earlier Peer to Peer posting containing the Editorial and comments from readers.


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